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How Long Does It Take to Learn a New Language?

by Marisa Serrano

If you’re just starting to learn a new language, you may be wondering: how long will this take me?

The short answer is, it depends. The amount of time you’ll need is largely based on three key factors:

  • What your goals are
  • How much time you spend practicing
  • What your strategy is

Let’s dive into how long it will take based on what you’d like to achieve, and what your method of getting there is.

What is your language learning goal?

My goal is: to have a conversation in another language

If your goal is to be able to have a basic conversation in another language, you can achieve this fairly quickly. From introducing yourself to chatting about the weather, these phrases are straightforward and simple to practice. You can be ready for this in about a week or two, depending on how much time you spend learning each day. 

My goal is: to understand basic directions and needs while traveling 

Have a trip abroad coming up? It’s always a good idea to learn some language basics, as they’ll come in handy along the way. This doesn’t take long to accomplish, and you can be ready in a few days to weeks. Start by envisioning each step of your trip, writing down who you might speak to, and what questions you may need to ask. Now you have a great list of what you’ll want to learn! Plus, you’ll be even more excited to get on the road.

My goal is: to be fluent in another language

Becoming fluent is a longer journey, and the exact timeline is harder to pinpoint. Often, this can depend on other factors as well, including how similar your target language is to your first language.

For example, the Foreign Service Institute estimates that for an English speaker, it takes 24-30 weeks (or 600-750 hours) to learn a language that’s relatively similar to English, like Dutch, Italian, Spanish, or French. However, for languages with significant linguistic differences from English, it can take closer to 44 weeks (or 1100 hours) to reach working proficiency. For the languages that are exceptionally different from English, this number can even reach 88 weeks (2200 hours).

Remember that no matter which language you’re learning, you can become fluent if you practice consistently! Check out these tips for staying motivated along the way. 

My goal is: something else

There are many great language-learning goals that are somewhere in between the basics and fluency. For example, you may want to:

  • Read a book in another language
  • Have a conversation about a high-level subject in another language
  • Pass an exam in another language
  • Communicate better with your grandparents in their first language

For these types of goals, the time it takes to get there can vary. It largely depends on your strategy and the time you’re able to spend each day! 

How much time should you spend each day?

How quickly you pick up your new language will, of course, also depend on how much time you put into practicing. 

If you have a short-term goal and are on a tight deadline—for example, you have a big trip abroad coming up—then it’s best to spend as much time as possible learning your new language. If you can build in a few hours each day, you’ll be in great shape to reach your goal.

For longer-term goals, like achieving fluency, it can be beneficial to find a consistent routine that will work for you on an ongoing basis. For example, perhaps you’re able to spend 30 minutes twice per day to focus on your language learning. The key is to set a realistic schedule that you’re able to stick to for the long term. Check out these additional tips for optimizing your practice routine.

Getting started with language learning

Now that we’ve reviewed your language learning goals, it’s time to discuss the best ways to reach them.

Fully immersing yourself in another language is the fastest way to learn. Rosetta Stone’s unique Dynamic Immersion method allows you to achieve this in your own space, and on your own schedule. You’ll be reading, hearing, and even speaking your new language from your very first lesson

Ready to get started? Learn more about Rosetta Stone’s language learning solution at www.rosettastone.com  

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